Big cars, big prices: '70s cars starting to shine

Luxury 1970s cars are gaining attention. This was evident at the recent Mecum Kissimmee auction.
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A more seasoned hobbyist once told me that there wasn’t an old car built after 1915. I was much younger than he, but I respectfully disagreed since an obsolete 20-plus-year-old vehicle is considered an “old car” by the vast majority of the hobby. The fellow hobbyist and I had this conversation about 15 years ago, at which time cars of the 1970s were solidly in the 25-years-old-and-older category where vehicles are universally recognized as collector vehicles. However, 1970s American vehicles generally had a small following and the hobby wondered if they ever would be desirable. Well, it appears as though those big luxo-boats have finally caught on — maybe even caught on fire.

At Mecum Auctions’ 2021 Kissimmee, Fla., sale in January, several 1970s domestics (and even a few from the ’80s) finally had their day in the sun. Prices for a handful of stellar (and even not-so-stellar) cars passed the $20,000 mark with several in the $30,000 category and one even hitting $55,000 — and those prices are before the 10% sales commission was added.

1975 Buick LeSabre Custom convertible

1975 Buick LeSabre Custom convertible

Topping the 1970s domestic luxury car list at Kissimmee was a 1975 Buick LeSabre Custom convertible in baby blue with a white interior. The car had 37,000 miles on its 350-cid V-8 and was well detailed; even the engine compartment looked new. People love “lasts” and the LeSabre was the last Buick convertible until the Riviera convertible of the 1980s, but this sale was a shocker.

1978 Continental Mark V coupe Cartier edition

1978 Continental Mark V coupe Cartier edition

To mark the 75th anniversary of the Ford Motor Co., Lincoln offered Diamond Jubilee editions of its 1978 Continental Mark V coupe. In addition, there were Designer Edition Mark Vs with special interior and other trim appointments by well-known designers. At Mecum Kissimmee, several versions of special edition Mark Vs fetched between $35,000 and $40,000. That’s not entirely surprising since these cars’ values have been gaining traction among collectors over the last few years.

1976 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency coupe

1976 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency coupe

What was more astonishing was the bids that big Oldsmobiles fetched. A 1976 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency coupe — the last of the giant Oldsmobiles — sold for $40,000. It was the right combination of colors with its all-black exterior and white upholstery. It also had just 4,900 miles and had always been exercised by its owner, a former General Motors employee. The Ninety-Eight’s price was almost double that of a 37,000-mile 1975 Hurst/Olds at this sale. Similarly remarkable was the sale of a 4,500-mile 1984 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency coupe for $27,000. Both Oldsmobiles are majestic machines, but why the sudden appreciation?

1984 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency coupe

1984 Oldsmobile Ninety-Eight Regency coupe

1970 Ford LTD coupe with a 429-cid V-8 and a four-speed

1970 Ford LTD coupe with a 429-cid V-8 and a four-speed

Meanwhile, a driver-quality 1970 Ford LTD coupe with a 429-cid V-8 and a four-speed did respectably well with a $22,000 bid. And a 1977 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham with 19,500 miles sold for $14,000 — a bit disappointing given the quality of such a car and the welcoming environment at this auction for similar ’70s boats.

1977 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham

1977 Chrysler New Yorker Brougham

A few of us already thought that bigger was better, and now it appears we have company. If the hobby has indeed moved past the stigma of earth tones and bell bottoms to appreciate the last giant “dinosaurs” that were once the mainstay of American car manufacturers, prices will remain on the rise. I, for one, am not comfortable with the attention to these once-hidden sources of inexpensive and overlooked hobby machines. Maybe I won’t be buying one of those cathedral-taillamped Olds Ninety-Eights after all.

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